Brusnik, an Adriatic Magnet

A tiny Brusnik, settled near island of Vis in the middle of Adriatic Sea, attracts travelers with rare remains of wild, unspoiled nature. A strange piece of land rises from the sea some 13 nautical miles western of Komiža, a town on Croatian island of Vis. It’s one of only two islets of volcanic origin in the Adriatic sea. Its rich waters made it a fishermens’ paradise, and apart from a strange black lizard and some herbs practically, nothing lives on it. It’s Brusnik.

A ‘piece of land’ is for sure the right name to describe Brusnik (pron. Brucenick). Only 23 meters tall, 200 meters long and 150 meters wide, that reef was created in tectonic movements, probably in the age of Trias, along with its ‘brother’ Jabuka. Those two islets are part of the volcanic triangle around Komiža that ends with the so-called Green Rocks scattered around Kamenice beach on Vis.

Komiža, fishing capital of Dalmatia

This islet looks more like the Moon than like our planet, but underwater it turns into a vault full of natural miracles. Many divers and fishermen might claim it’s probably the most exiting part of Adriatic, filled with lobsters, corals, fish. That richness made Brusnik the most popular hunting ground for fishermen from Komiža, a fishing capital of central Dalmatia. They used to spend months on the granite islet, as long as lobster season would last. In the old days, the only part of the year when they could sell lobster would be around big holidays like Easter or Christmas, so they would spend most of the winter on the bare rock .

Probably the best expert when it comes to a life of Komiža fishermen Joško Božanic wrote in his book Komiški dikcionar – Komiža Dictionary (Cakavska ric, Split, 2008) that they used to live as cavemen, while being out on the sea. Using their traditional boats called falkuša, at the end of October they would leave for Brusnik, or for nearby Svetac, or Palagruža, and stay there until spring. After coming back, they stayed home long enough only to prepare their nets and boats for the sardine season. Božanic collected memories of old fishermen, and one of them, Ivan Vitaljic Gusla, told him that on Brusnik they lived either on boats under some kind of tent, or in a cave they called Ospidol. That word might – quite appropriately – have origins in the Italian word ospedale for hospital, or ospitale for hospitality.

Best diving and sailing in Croatia

Nowadays, since lobster became a common part of tourist offer in the Adriatic, there are less and less old-school fishermen. Their predecessors left on Brusnik the only trace of human presence on the islet: the lobster pools locals call jastožera (pron. yastozhera). Travelers of today, mostly tourists with rented boats and yachts and divers, can recognize these pools surrounded with black Brusnik granite.

Jastožeras were constructed in the central part of Brusnik, where sort of a rock saddle divides the islet in two. In the winter, when strong winds and sea floods the inlet, from the distance it looks like two islets. Since lobsters were hunted in bigger deeps, where sea temperature is lower than on the surface, fishermen had to change the water in the pools to keep lobsters fresh and alive. They sometimes had to erect sun shades.

Inhospitable Brusnik prevented any kind of construction on islet, so it remained intact. As such, it turned from a fishing paradise into a popular diving and sailing destination. Even more, waters around Vis are probably the most interesting part of Adriatic for sailing, but also for wreck hunters and safari diving.

The biggest fortune on Brusnik was always water, fresh water of course. Božanic wrote that fishermen told him that it was enough if some of them tried to wash their eyes after sleep to become a target of their old mates rage. They knew – if bad weather comes, they wouldn’t be able to sail to the nearby island of Svetac (or Sveti Andrija – Saint Andrew) to get more water. as for why they never built any kind of reservoir, they just didn’t want other fishermen, especially those not from Komiža, to jeopardize their hunting grounds.

Dubrovnik on Black Beach

The origin of word Brusnik is unclear. It sounds like a Croatian word for sanding stone (brus – pron. bruce), and some believe it is so because its rocks can be used to sharpen knives. Others say that its shores, washed constantly by strong winds and high seas, look sharp and dangerous like they were sanded.Brusnik is a protected natural area since 1951, mostly because of its strange life forms. The endemic Centaurea ragusina, locals call it Dubrovnik rabbit grass, and black lizard can be found there. The sea, rich with fish, attracts seagulls, but they prefer to nest on neighboring Svetac or Vis. And that would be all, except for some capers. Its volcanic origin creates another attraction – rocks rich with magnetite makes compasses useless. Thank God for GPSs, so modern sailors can feel safe. Those who might try to land on Brusnik will find out that it might be even more tempting. The only place that looks at least a little bit friendly is an incredible beach covered with dark rocks, sometimes perfectly egg-shaped. If it reminds you of an alien nest from the movies, well, who knows?

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